About the Committee on Education

The Committee on Education and the University of Chicago

Leading social and behavioral scientists at the University have long pursued questions of fundamental importance to education. The questions are broad in scope, for example: How do children learn to speak, to read, and to reason mathematically? How can classroom instruction promote such learning? How can school organization support such instruction? How does the political economy of a school system affect its productivity? Taken in isolation, each question is important for understanding human development and society. But the answers emerging in each domain of research have implications for inquiry in the other domains.

Fostering a Vibrant Intellectual Community

By fostering a dynamic exchange of ideas and perspectives between researchers and practitioners, the Committee aims to find solutions to the urgent problems facing preschool through high school education in the U.S. Our internationally renowned faculty contributes expertise in the areas of comparative human development, economics, psychology, public policy, social services administration, sociology, and statistics. Expert practitioners, whose work is based at the Urban Education Institute (UEI), the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, the UChicago Charter School, and UChicago STEM Education, contribute their experience and knowledge in preK-12 instruction, training teachers, running schools, developing and scaling interventions and tools, and collecting and analyzing large public education data sets.

The Commitee on Education also cultivates interdisciplinary exchange through the weekly Workshop on Education Lecture Series, in which leading researchers from both the University of Chicago and other institutions present cutting edge research within an atmosphere of collegial dialogue and discuss methodological advances for understanding the interplay of human development and the social institution of schooling. The Workshop provides a common intellectual foundation for students and faculty, who have the opportunity to hear presentations of new work by renowned faculty and promising emerging scholars, prior to publication. COE also hosts a number of special events each year, such as an orientation week reception and mini-conference for PhD students, public lectures focused on new books by COE faculty, and presentations by outside speakers geared at a wide audience that includes both researchers and practitioners. 

To see more information on our partner organizations, click here.

To see more information on projects and initiatives undertaken by our Committee Faculty, click here.

To see more information on the weekly Workshop on Education, click here.

Training the Next Generation of Scholars

A central activity of COE is training doctoral students across a variety of disciplines and immersing them in interdisciplinary conversation about education that includes not only world-renowned scholars, but also expert practitioners. COE’s pre-doctoral training program, funded by the US Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences (IES) since 2005, has been remarkably successful thus far. Three training grants from the IES, totaling $15 million, have supported the training of 60 doctoral students representing economics, comparative human development, political science, psychology, public policy, social work, and sociology. This effort has produced a remarkable array of new junior faculty across many leading universities and colleges with a success rate in completing the degree and career placement that approaches 100%.

The program is animated by a major question of great interest to faculty and students in the Division of Social Sciences, the Harris School, and the Crown Family School: How can we improve the contribution of schooling to the labor-market success of children growing up in the nation’s cities? This question spans the disciplines, encompassing issues related to learning and child development, instruction, school organization and leadership, labor economics, educational policy, and research design and statistics. As such, the program is integral to the success of educational scholarship at the University, which aims to produce new knowledge about schooling that has far-reaching implications for making schools work better, via a new model for the role of a university in improving schooling.

The foundation of this model, as noted previously, is our attempt to orchestrate a powerful interplay between top-notch scholars and expert practitioners across the university. Doctoral students play a central role in fostering this interplay, helping connect faculty and each other to the urban education work at the university. For example, a number of our most successful IES Fellows built their dissertations working with UEI and many others have worked on projects closely linked to educational practice. Indeed, our pre-doctoral training has become one of the most important ways in which COE has built ties to UEI, to practitioners, and to research on practice. At the same time, the program has also strengthened the departments by recruiting top students who bring diverse backgrounds and experiences.

Each pre-doctoral fellow earns a PhD in a social science discipline or from a professional school while participating in a common program of courses, workshops, and a 2-year apprenticeship conducting research in a school setting. This set of experiences enables each to contribute particular expertise to answering questions related to schooling from the standpoint of his or her respective discipline: How do we define and measure the skills young people need to become productive later in life? What is the relationship between academic and non-academic skills? What role does social and emotional regulation play in shaping learning? How should instruction be organized? What forms should school leadership and governance take to optimize student learning? How can we recruit and retain an effective teacher work force? Students select among a wide range of ongoing research projects and multiple sites of practice, with access to the nation’s best administrative data system on urban schools and youth development. These sites include UEI and the UChicago Consortium on School Research, the Chicago Heights Early Childhood Center, the TMW Center for Early Learning + Public Health, and the Urban Labs. Our aim is to produce rigorous and usable research on how schooling can be improved to provide the skills, dispositions and information young people need to make a successful transition into the labor market; and by engaging PhD students deeply in carrying out this research, to enable those fellows to become independent scholars who can effectively design rigorous social science research in education, collect and analyze relevant data, and communicate results clearly to a range of audiences.

To see more information on graduate studies in education, click here.